Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




English Language and Literature

First Advisor

David Cowart


The treatment of the Conestoga Massacre and the (dis)placement of the subaltern in Mason & Dixon are of utmost importance to the novel’s narrative arc. The relative paucity of indigenous voices in Mason & Dixon is important in at least two seemingly contradictory ways: the author simultaneously avoids appropriation, and performs, as it were, the erasure at the heart of the colonial paradigm. Mason & Dixon’s multiple allusions to native peoples never quite amount to an indigenous presence; indeed, they seem only to rehearse a particular ideological outlook in which colonial racial aggression cannot be acknowledged, or perhaps even seen. With Mason & Dixon, Pynchon indeed explores the power of narratives at once to conceal and reveal certain bodies, realities, and histories.

I do not, in this reading, intend to disparage Mason & Dixon; rather I argue that its narrative framing, drawing attention to itself, invites the reader to ask questions concerning any culture’s ability to see its past clearly. The concept of “spaces unseen” as “pockets of safety” in postmodern fiction may be one viable solution to the challenges Gayatri Spivak brings to light in her “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Ventriloquizing the voice of the subaltern in storytelling would be nothing more than a continuation of imperial oppression and neocolonial appropriation. The silent spaces in such fictions as Mason & Dixon provides room for other voices, creating a communal visualization of history in which all are encouraged to speak.